Over the years, I have seen many practices struggle to navigate difficult waters. In fact, it seems that lately, there are an alarming number of practices having serious challenges staying on course.
Some are facing serious economic challenges. Others are having a struggle to attract new patients. Your frustrations may stem from open time in the schedule, or just difficulty achieving continuous improvement. Whatever your current storm may be, rest assured it doesn’t have to end badly. It is disheartening to hear stories about dentists who decide to give up, or no longer enjoy life as a practicing dentist. My passion for what we do in the field of dentistry is what drives me! It is an exciting time to be in dentistry.
I would like to share Three Practice Survival Strategies with you today. These concepts have helped countless other dentists in similar circumstances turn things around, and realize tremendous success. When you realize success in your professional life, the satisfaction that you derive from that can make life more enjoyable.
Strategy #1: Think Inside the Box
If you think of your practice as a box, the majority of your time, effort, and resources should go towards the patients, team, and the procedure mix you currently have in your box. Do the things your patients expect in a more extraordinary way.
Before marketing to attract new patients, first become attractive to new patients. One simple exercise to become more attractive is The “No” Transformer. When we have to tell our patients “no”, we are denying them what they want. Have your team identify every situation where they have to say “no” to a patient. Lead the team in discussing how they can transform as many of those “noes” to “yeses” as quickly as possible. Your patient referrals will soar as you become more attractive.
Becoming more attractive overcomes two marketplace challenges: the return on external marketing in some markets has evaporated and the old paradigm of patients conforming to the wishes and preferences of dentists and their teams is failing. Dental consumers are becoming more demanding and those practices that adapt and find a way to say yes will realize great return on their effort.
Becoming more attractive is the first step on creating hyper patient demand. The next step is to master internal marketing. We teach 21 internal marketing steps that any practice can use to increase patient demand quickly, easily, and inexpensively. Once you have mastered these skills your success with external marketing will be multiplied many times over.
Strategy #2: Maximize Potential from Hygiene
In today’s dental practice, realizing success in hygiene is not out of reach. Although it may seem that achieving high productivity consistently from your hygiene department is a fantasy, we have found a formula for success in hygiene. The incredible thing is, we have taught practices all over the country how to convert lack-luster hygiene productivity into an incredible revenue stream.
To realize potential in hygiene, we must be sure that we are maximizing the three roles of a modern day dental hygienist.
The first role is that of a Preventive Therapist. Dental Hygienists have a significant responsibility to be focused on the prevention of disease. We are the only health professional who is given the primary role of prevention! The truth is, many patients of today are considered high risk by the ADA. Those who consistently struggle with chronic decay have a very high level of frustration. They do not want cavities, they are tired of always having problems with their teeth and they are very interested in preventive options.
Too often we assume that if insurance doesn’t cover a certain preventive procedure, the patient will not want it. When we present the opportunity the right way, patients jump at the chance to prevent future problems. Preventive services like fluoride, sealants, de-sensitizing agents, radiographs, advanced oral cancer screenings, and many others are becoming commonplace procedures happening daily in hygiene. If we are truly maximizing preventive therapy in hygiene, a nice thing happens to productivity. It goes up drastically.
The second role is that of a Periodontal Therapist. Many consultants and hygiene speakers focus heavily on Periodontal therapy, as it is a critical component in the life of a dental hygienist. However, it is not uncommon to see a practice that is still treating periodontal infection today with the same strategies and technology that they were using 5 years ago. Sometimes even 10 years ago. This is truly alarming! Many things have changed. We have better tools, better science about what causes periodontal infection, and how to drastically reduce it. We know so much more about the Oral-Systemic link, and serious health risks that exist with the presence of inflammation in the body.
We have laser techniques, we have Oral DNA testing methods, we have better home care products, we have additional resources like Arestin and other adjunctive options for patients. If we are truly maximizing potential in our role as a Periodontal Therapist, we are seeing periodontal disease, talking about it and treating it. We have extremely high acceptance rates for these advanced services, supervised neglect is not an option. We discuss Periodontal Disease with existing patients, as well as new patients, and we are treating it with every available weapon in our arsenal.
The third role is that of a Patient Treatment Advocate. Hygiene often underestimates what a critical role we have in helping our patients make choices about the dentistry they need. How many times have they turned to the hygienist, or another clinical team member to ask, “Do I really need to have this done?” or “How long can I wait before I get this taken care of?” The reality is, patients do want the team’s opinion, and recommendations when it comes to the choices they have about treatment.
We also teach providers how to embrace and incorporate technology that aids us in better maximizing this role. Having time, and the skills necessary to use the intra-oral camera on every patient is vital. Other incredible devices like the Diagnodent, only help us facilitate treatment being accepted. Verbal skills, knowing which questions to ask and helping the patient decide which option best accomplishes their goals are what we are aiming for in developing this role. Presenting treatment and having the patient choose better dentistry can be incredibly rewarding.
Strategy #3: Eliminate Production Blockers
I have observed dentists who produce $200k per month easily. I have also observed dentists who struggle to produce 20% of that. What is the difference? The myth would tell you the $200k dentists are doing lots of big cases. The reality is that these hyper-producers mainly do bread and butter dentistry and have simply eliminated blockages to production. Some common blockages include: inadequate investment in technology, inadequate number of equally equipped treatment rooms, too few chair-side assistants, room turnover inefficiency, and lack of standard clinical protocols.
Quite simply, practices that become attractive to patients generate a great deal of patient demand and become blocked to future growth quite quickly. These blockages are often too subtle to be detected by a busy practitioner. The super producers know the early symptoms of these blockages and address them aggressively. One early symptom is the inability to accept emergency patients immediately. If you have existing or new patients with a dental emergency and you cannot see them today, you have a production block.
The usual dentist response to a production blockage is to misidentify the problem. Commonly the blocked dentist tries to fix the blockage by trying to attract more new patients. These new patients only exacerbate the blockage. Like a dam full to capacity, more water causes a spillover. In a practice, spillover is the patients who no longer return to your practice. As you add more patients in the front door of a blocked practice you increase the patients slipping away through the back door.
Eliminating production blockages can be scary. It almost always involves investment in people, technology, equipment, supplies, and/or facility. If the blockage is correctly identified and the correct strategy is used to solve it, the investment pays off very rapidly. If the blockage diagnosis is incorrect, the treatment is less likely to be effective and the payoff negligible or none. Having expert help identifying and addressing blockages is extremely beneficial.
Practices that utilize these strategies are not worried about survival. Instead, they are thriving! Despite economic challenges, they are realizing record productivity. Their practices are growing, their teams are engaged and excited about serving their patients, and this provides a tremendous benefit for the Doctor. Productivity brings Profitability. Profitability often produces Peace of Mind.